MSNBC anchor Geoff Bennett choked up on air while reading the last words of Elijah McClain—the Black 23-year-old massage therapist from Aurora, Colorado who died after a violent stop by police in August 2019.
McClain was stopped while walking home because officers felt he looked suspicious. He broke no laws and was never arrested during the stop that killed him.
Police officers confronted McClain claiming to be responding to a call from a concerned citizen who reported an unarmed man wearing a ski mask and looking "sketchy."
Three police officers held McClain in a carotid hold with his hands cuffed behind his back, and two paramedics later injected him with a lethal dose of ketamine to sedate him.
He went into cardiac arrest on the scene and was taken to the hospital where he was declared brain dead and subsequently taken off life support.
Nearly two years after the tragic incident, a Colorado grand jury indicted the three police officers and the two paramedics for their involvement in McClain's death.
During the MSNBC broadcast, Bennett became emotionally overwhelmed while discussing McClain's case with former federal prosecutor Paul Butler and criminal defense attorney David Henderson.
"This kid was 5'6" and weighed 140 pounds and they gave him enough sedative that you would give to someone who weighed 220 pounds," said Bennett of McClain.
"And his final words are haunting and tragic."
Bennett took a long pause to regain his composure.
He then quoted McClain, whose alleged final words were:
"I can't breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home."
"I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?"
People online also expressed their indignation.
Bennett addressed the two guests on the segment after reading the quote and asked:
"If Elijah McClain isn't safe, who is?"
People lauded the MSNBC anchor for having a genuinely human moment on the live broadcast.
On June 24, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced his administration would reexamine McClain's case after a viral online petition demanded justice in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Earlier on Wednesday, Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the three police officers and the two paramedics involved in the killing of McClain were handed a 32-count indictment—including charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
"We're here today because Elijah McClain is not here and he should be," said Weiser.
"When he died he was only 23 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him and his family and his friends must now go on and must live without him."